|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
YEAR IN REVIEW: Hurricane Ike cleanup continues
Polk County Enterprise - January 2009
LIVINGSTON – The third quarter of 2008 began with the presidential election looming on the horizon. Local fi nancial advisors said there was no fi nancial crisis in Polk County – at least not on the scale of Wall Street – and cleanup from Hurricane Ike was well under way. The Polk County Sheriff’s Offi ce launched a new feature on their website that allows residents to register for e-mail notifi cation when registered sex offenders move into their area. Kenneth Hambrick resigned as Emergency Management Coordinator for the county on Tuesday, Sept. 30, and County Judge John Thompson signed an executive order appointing Larry Shine to the position effective immediately. Hambrick gave no reason for his resignation. The FEMA disaster assistance center was processing as many as 60 applications for assistance per day. The center was open seven days a week during the initial recovery phase from Ike. County Fire Marshall Mark Taylor began an investigation into the cause of a fi re at Livingston High School Sept. 30. According to police reports someone started a fi re in the boy’s restroom of one of the school’s portable buildings. The fi re was quickly extinguished and fi refi ghters dealt mostly with clearing smoke from the building. The 2008 Heritage Edition of the Enterprise took a look back at the emergence and growth of transportation in the county. From the footpaths of the Alabama- Coushatta tribe to landing men on the moon to the plans for the TransTexas Corridor along U.S. 59, the Enterprise has covered it all through the years. The Fight Back Express bus rolled into Livingston spreading the American Cancer Society’s message, “If one person can battle cancer, a nation can rise up and defeat it.” The tour highlighted the Cancer Action Network’s crucial role in lobbying elected offi cials to make cancer a national priority. As the bus made its way through the lower 48 states on its way to Washington, D.C. for Election Day, tens of thousands of people stopped to sign the sides of the bus in a show of solidarity. While in Livingston, hundreds of supporters of the Relay For Life of Polk County came out to sign the bus, including one person who wrote, “A cure that no one can afford is no cure at all.” In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike residents around the county were up in arms over their water companies’ ability – or inability – to provide water service despite the power outages. County Judge John Thompson put the matter at the top of his list for problems to be solved before the next emergency and subdivision property owners pressured utility owners to purchase generators proactively. The Main Street program continued its work in the downtown historic district, awarding grants to several businesses for new signs, the Whisenhunt building lost its awning and the Mistrot building underwent a major facelift as owner Debbie Clack prepared to remodel the inside. Main Street headed into the busy holiday shopping season with a limited edition Livinstonopoly board game representing businesses in the area with proceeds benefi ting the historical district. The City of Onalaska celebrated National Night Out as residents, city and county offi cials, law enforcement and emergency workers came together as a community to learn about the services provided by the various state and local agencies. The Pilot Club of Livingston hosted its 44th annual Turkey Dinner, serving a thousand people. Along with the turkey has always been Emma Dahl’s famous home baked loaves of bread. This year Dahl announced she would be “retiring” from baking and the last dozen loaves of her bread went to auction at the dinner. County commissioners and city offi cials continued to struggle with the rising costs of debris cleanup from Ike. With reimbursement months down the road and FEMA changing deadlines and percentages every week, civic leaders worked through the mountains of paperwork to make sure that local agencies received every dollar of reimbursement available and that deadlines were met. Once the bids were in, county commissioners were faced with a spreadsheet of proposals that would intimidate Pythagorus and recessed to make heads or tails of the numbers. With bids varying from flat rates to “per stump,” the court wanted to avoid any surprises as crews cleared the estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris. Commissioners awarded the cleanup contract to TFR Enterprises for a minimum of $2.9 million. The company had the low bid of $5.85 per cubic yard. The City of Livingston chose to hire private contractors through an expedited bidding process to work alongside city employees from the outset, shaving off the two-week delay the county faced by following the formal bidding process for the work. Mark Lewis Beamon, 41, received a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual assault – one against his 12-year-old daughter and the other his 16-year-old daughter. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office received a renewal of the STEP grant. The $77,792 grant aids the department in targeting DWI and speeding violators as well as violators of occupant safety laws through the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. The Polk County Maintenance Department prepared for a yearend move after commissioners approved the purchase of a 15,000 square foot building on Allie Bean Drive. The $450,000 expenditure provided for the purchase of the building and 2.8 acres of property and renovation to the interior which included the installation of a three-hour fire rated wall to allow the county to consolidate document storage to the building. Long range plans call for the relocation of the county’s animal shelter to the site. Initial estimates by the City of Livingston placed the city’s portion of Ike’s cleanup price tag at $350,000. City crews were working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week to clear the city streets of debris. On October 14, a full month after Ike hit the East Texas coast, city manager Marilyn Sutton told city council that “normal is a long way off.” The Families and Individuals Thanking Heroes (FAITH) group began the gear up for Christmas package mailouts to troops. The FAITH group sends regular care packages to troops with a tie to Polk County, providing snacks, toiletries, reading material and words of encouragement. At the same time, the Empty Stocking program kicked off its run up to the holiday season, rallying supporters for its 19th year providing gifts to needy Polk County children. Livingston High School crowned John Salazar its first Homecoming King and Adriana Celedon as Homecoming Queen at the Oct. 17 Lion’s football game. Corrigan-Camden I.S.D. was rocked with scandal in October as three staff members were accused of misconduct. Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Ann Hudspeth was placed on paid administrative leave after she was accused of inappropriate conduct with male students. Police had interviewed several juvenile males who had received sexually explicit text messages or partially nude or nude photos from Hudspeth. Junior High Principal Ray Bostick resigned after he was accused of viewing child pornography online using his office computer. Coach Clay Dubose was relieved of his duties after he allegedly reported for duty at a game while intoxicated. Dubose continued to work as classroom teacher. The city park on Matthews Street was vandalized with spraypainted references to drug use. Four people from two Seven Oaks motel rooms were arrested Oct. 16 for possession of narcotics and illegal weapons. Steven Walter Cook, David Jason Michels, Velora Lynn Pagan and Sherri Lynn Day were all arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. Cook, 45, was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and was held under a $1 million bond. Michels, 26, was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and a warrant for aggravated assault against a public servant. He was held with bonds totaling $700,000. The Texas prison system went on lockdown in October after a death row inmate was found with cell phone which he had used to make threatening phone calls to Sen. John Whitmire and Austin American- Statesman reporter Mike Ward. As many as 2,800 phone calls were made from the phone over a 30-day period by 10 death row inmates including Richard Tabler who was on the phone talking to Ward at the time of his arrest in his cell. Tabler’s mother and sister were also arrested in the hours following his arrest and charged with providing a prohibited item to an inmate. Over the next three weeks as the state’s 156,000 inmates remained confined to their cells, prison officials searched every facility in the state. The number of cell phones, SIM memory cards and homemade weapons grew daily with officials finding 14 phones and 12 phone chargers within the first 24 hours. Claycomb & Associates presented preliminary designs for a two-story high school campus to Livingston I.S.D. trustees. The design phase will continue into early 2009 with bidding expected to begin in May and construction in July 2009. The Enterprise’s annual Senior Citizen section focused on staying active and explored the idea that 70 is the new 50. Volunteer opportunities around the county were highlighted along with ideas and tips to keep fit and focused well into retirement. SAAFE House presented an installation project at the Polk County courthouse called “In Their Shoes,” aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence as the group recognized October’s Domestic Violence Awareness month. The installation, which was made up of 96 pairs of shoes hanging from the trees at the courthouse, represented the number of calls made for help in Polk County. Each pair of shoes was representative of three phone calls, or the 288 calls made to law enforcement for domestic violence from April 2007 to June 2008. Chesswood Baptist Church kicked off its participation in the Angel Food Ministries program. Angel Food offers low-cost food to families across the country with no application process or income requirements. The food to be included in the monthly boxes is provided through a menu available at Chesswood or online at www.angelfoodministries.com. The “basic” box is just $31 per month and provides a well-balanced selection of meats, vegetables and dry goods at significant savings. Special packages are also available most months for individuals or as add-ons to the basic box and include low cost cuts of beef, chicken and pork. The prison contraband shakedown continued and officials had confiscated more than 40 phones, 36 chargers, 24 weapons, 35 tobacco products and eight stashes of marijuana within the first six days of the statewide lockdown. Polunsky Unit Senior Warden Tim Simmons confirmed that six of the eight phones found in his facility had been on death row where inmates are normally in solitary confinement 23 hours a day to begin with. Twenty percent of the phones discovered in the first week were found at Polunsky, a maximum security facility. City of Livingston Police and Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies joined a search by U.S. Marshals and Texas Rangers for Kim Daryl Warner after he evaded arrest at his place of employment on U.S. 146. Warner was wanted in connection with an aggravated assault and aggravated robbery that occurred in Harris County. Livingston I.S.D. locked down all of its campuses as the search continued throughout the day and into the evening Oct. 24. Warner was apprehended at about 1 a.m. Oct. 26 at a home on FM 350 North after evading officers throughout the weekend in Livingston and Big Sandy. John Earnest Collier Jr. was sentenced to 25 years in prison for forcing his 9-year-old niece into sex. Collier has a long history of criminal activity that began nearly 30 years ago in Colorado when he at age 16 abducted a mother and her three small children at gunpoint. The planning stage is nearly complete on two county projects targeted to eliminate jail overcrowding and courthouse congestion. Housing inmates at out-of-county jail space costs the county thousands every month. As October drew to a close, prison officials had found 71 cell phones, nine of which were found at Polunsky in Livingston. Debris collection from Hurricane Ike was entering its second phase as crews had picked up over 100,000 cubic yards of debris. Early voters continued to flock to the polls to cast their ballot in the Presidential election. Fifty-four hundred people had voted by the end of the month and the race was shaping up to be a must-see event come Election Day.